April 18, 2001   

   Defects boost disc capacity
Make the microscopic magnetic fields that serve as bits in rewritable compact discs too small and they become unstable and unneighborly. Deliberately adding defects to the discs puts virtual walls around the bits. The result could be hundreds of times more capacity.
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Alternative quantum bits go natural
Building bits for quantum computers usually means making atoms or subatomic particles jump through hoops. But if you can get a hold of enough of them, letting the particles do their own thing could be a better way to go.

Light powers molecular piston
Building machines out of individual molecules is no longer such a fantastic notion. Researchers have found a molecule that acts like a piston and runs on the cheapest fuel around. Now they just have to hook it up to something.

Bumps could make better biochips
Rust is usually a sign of disorder. But for a range of thin metal films, oxidation produces uniform bumps. The microscopic hillocks could eventually control biochips' fluid flow and make better display screens.

Crystal changes shape in ultraviolet light
Shine light on most crystals and the only thing that happens is the light bounces off. But one crystal gets bent out of shape when you hit it would ultraviolet rays. The reaction could power microscopic machines.

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